Friday, January 20, 2017

When The Brain Scrambles Names, It's Because You Love Them

Over the year's I have called each one of my children a name that was not their own (even the family dog is not immune to my crazy name calling). I'm pretty sure most of us has had the same experience (with our own parent's calling us every family name but our own). 

Now I seem to have started this mixed up name calling myself. I have no explanation for this until now. I find I am not going crazy, but full of love.....

A very big thank you to NPR (and Samantha Deffler) for this article, and my husband for sharing it with me.


When Samantha Deffler was young, her mother would often call her by her siblings' names — even the dog's name. "Rebecca, Jesse, Molly, Tucker, Samantha," she says.

A lot of people mix up children's names or friends' names, but Deffler is a cognitive scientist at Rollins College, in Winter Park, Fla., and she wanted to find out why it happens. So she did a survey of 1,700 men and women of different ages, and she found that naming mistakes are very common. Most everyone sometimes mixes up the names of family and friends. Her findings were published in the journal Memory & Cognition.

"It's a normal cognitive glitch," Deffler says.

It's not related to a bad memory or to aging, but rather to how the brain categorizes names. It's like having special folders for family names and friends names stored in the brain. When people used the wrong name, overwhelmingly the name that was used was in the same category, Deffler says. It was in the same folder.

And there was one group who was especially prone to the naming mix-ups.

"Moms, especially moms," Deffler says. "Any mom I talked to says, 'You know, I've definitely done this.'"

It works something like this: Say you've got an armful of groceries and you need some quick help from one of your kids. Your brain tries to rapidly retrieve the name from the family folder, but it may end up retrieving a related name instead, says Neil Mulligan, a cognitive scientist at UNC Chapel Hill.

"As you are preparing to produce the utterance, you're activating not just their name, but competing names," he says. You flick through the names of all your other children, stored in the family folder, and sometimes these competing names win.

Like in the classic scene from the TV show, Friends. When Ross says his wedding vows, he is asked to repeat his fiancée's name, Emily. He says his former girlfriend's name Rachel instead.

Now Ross probably had both Rachel's and Emily's names in his mental folder of loved ones and a mental mix-up ensued.

And it's not just human loved ones that are filed together.

"Whatever dog we had at the time would be included in the string along with my sister Rebecca and my brother Jesse," Deffler says.

So your family dog typically gets filed with other family members. This of course sparks the question — what about your family cat?

"You are much more likely to be called the dog's name than you are to be called the cat's name." Deffler says.

This implies that psychologically, we categorize the dog's name along with our family member's names, according to Mulligan.

"And we don't do that with cats' names, apparently, or hamsters' names or other animal names," Mulligan says.

Maybe that's why we call the dog man's best friend.

 NPR Post Health Shots 10_16_2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

National Awareness Months and More (much More)

So… I’m driving around when I spot a banner… National Eye Care Month.  I think to myself really?  Which makes me think about all the special month designations that I may be missing. (I’m naturally curious about such things.)  Turns out that if you spend the time to investigate monthly national awareness designations you may be surprised to learn that there are quite a lot (more like a plethora) and as you know it’s important to not be unaware of such things. It can affect your life.

For example: January is Be Kind to Food Servers Month. (I went out to dinner last night and had I known, I would have been kinder.) January is also Walk Your Pet Month. (Which my dog will be happy about because I can walk him this month and not wait for August National Dog Appreciation Day.) February is Library Lovers Month (Not to be confused with National Library Week in April.) It is also National Time Management Month. I appreciate this because I can manage my time in the library during the month of February, and I will be sure to wear red on February third - National Wear Red Day.

March is National Ethics Month (which is a good thing because I’m preparing my taxes).  Preparing taxes is not a fun chore for me but having Share a Smile Day will certainly help. National Financial Literacy Month is in April (and since my finances are something only the IRS is likely to read) there are more important things to do. It’s Keep America Beautiful Month. Planning lots of activity on National Arbor and Earth Day will be enjoyable. It is also Pet Owner’s Day. (I’m not sure my dog knows he’s supposed to honor me that day. Or is it the other way around?)

I don’t sleep well most nights but in May I anticipate I will sleep like a baby because it’s Better Sleep Month. It is also Clean Air Month and American Bike Month. (I hear fresh air and exercise help one sleep soundly.) Should I have difficulty falling asleep I can count ducklings (not sheep) because it’s National Duckling Month. As the summer months approach I feel I will have great difficulty in my life. National Great Outdoors Month is in June. This is a good thing because it’s also National Candy Month. (I have a sweet tooth and I also have no self-control what-so-ever.) National Ice Cream Day, National Lollipop Day, National Culinary Month, and National Grilling Month are in July. (Such a month as July can only counter the great activities and healthy habits I practiced in May & June.)  I’ll have to be careful because August is Beach Month and I’ll need to be able to fit into my bathing suit. It’s important to look good the entire month, as well as, on Relaxation Day, having a nice time during National Smile week (not to be confused with Dental Health Month back in February.)

September brings Library Card Sign Up Month (why wasn’t this in February?) I also found out it is College Savings Month What the heck? (Are we required to save up only this month or are other months OK too?) I’ll have to read up for an answer.  It’s good to know that October is National Book Month and therefore, I may be able to find answers then. On the topic of education I’m getting confused as American Education Week is in November and in May is Teacher Appreciation Week. Thankfully enough December brings Safe Toy & Gift Month. (Sounds a little boring to me.) However since the holidays are just around the corner I’m OK with being a little practical before all the excitement begins.

If all these special months, weeks, and days are just too confusing, just do what I plan to do and participate in National Simplify your Life Week.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nothing on the "to do' List

"What are we doing today?"


"What do you mean?"


"We got nothing planned for today?"


"Not a thing?"

"Not a thing."

(Long pause)

"So, what are we going to do?"

"I  don't know."

"What do you want to do?"

" I don't want to do anything."


"I don't feel like it."

"How come?"

"I'm thinking it is best to see how the day
 unfolds for us?" 




(Longer pause)

"So what do you want to do next?"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Can One Communicate Through Texting? I can't!

Anyone with children over the age of 13 know that having a cell phone
and using it for phone calling is passe. If you want to get your kids attention
you need to text. Getting their attention and getting information are two 
different things. Just because you can connect doesn’t mean you can 
communicate. Is it me or is it just too hard to get a concise and clear answer? 
Perhaps I’m just too old?

Take a recent event in my household.

I received a call from my oldest upset and angry that his car had broken down
on the way to practice in San Francisco (45 minutes away/50+ miles).
After a long discussion I had with him concerning his options.
He told me he would make a decision and then call me back. 
(And if you are a parent you can predict that no phone call followed in a timely manner.)

After a couple of cell phone calls and leaving messages I resorted to texting.

4:34 pm                
Mom – What’s the plan?
(The initial plan involved him having the car towed prior to practice and me
driving up and picking him up at 9pm. If that was to happen I had to
cancel my plans and juggle some things.)

Son - I’m going to tow it and come back in the morning
(Ok. But tow it when? When I pick you up? Now? When? 
You text “come back in the morning. Does that mean you are staying with 
a friend in the city tonight?)

Mom -  I’m still planning on leaving at 8pm to get you. Am I still picking you up? 
From your message I’m assuming that you are staying with a friend in the city
and the car and you are in a safe place? Talk to me!

Son – I’m safe. Coming home tonight
(Coming home tonight? With me? With car in tow?)

Mom – Who is bringing you home? Me? Or someone else?
(Why am I so confused about my role here?)

Son -  I’m in the tow truck, on my way to the repair shop
(Oh, finally and answer I can understand!)

Mom – Ok. Call me when you are close and I’ll come pick you up.
 Son – OK. Will do
(Finally we are communicating.)

Son – I’ll be at repair shop in 5
Mom – Ok I’m leaving now.
A couple of other noteworthy moments concerning this exchange:

I’m  exhausted after being in a high state of alert for over 5 hours.
And after copying our texting exchange into this blog I notice several things:
I text a lot of words, and my son does not.
I use punctuation and he does not.

(Obviously I am a poor texter. I guess I am too old for this sort of thing.)

I miss talking on the phone.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Reading is a Joy (Well, maybe for me)

This afternoon I was browsing through Amazon on line to purchase a book my daughter plans to read this summer and I want to read it too so we can have our own private book club. It also serves another purpose because I can’t have her gaining any knowledge over me. (That just would not be fitting considering I seem to be getting dumber by the day. I need to keep up!) I should mention that this is no light reading that she is attending a week of a college summer course work and the book she has been assigned to read (prior to her attending) is Phaedrus, and the author is Plato.

This change in her summer reading list is very welcome because the last three years she has been assigned 4-6 books on very depressing subjects such as mental health & suicide, ethnic cleansing, and the plight of woman around the world.  This is her school’s attempt to educate the student populace about the human condition and moral ethics. And while I really do appreciate that goal… one or two key books would be enough... a reader would be educated.. but after 6 books well…that reader is downright depressed.

And speaking about being unhappy with summer reading.. we all know our children feel this way. For most kids summer reading is a chore. (Too bad. So sad.) Last year I went out and purchased some classics for my middle school son to read over the summer: Last of Mohicans (nothing like the movie), Treasure Island (the original pirate book), Tom Sawyer (such a clever lad) and Gulliver’s Travels (short and sweet and so much better than the Jack Black movie) and while my son was not pleased I was, because I love, love, love to read. Being able to discuss books and characters with my children (who one day will be so much brighter than their dimming mom)makes my summer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who is the Favorite?

It has been quite a sometime since I have heard the words "you don't care about me" or "why do you get them something but never for me?" My youngest is 14 and I thought those days were behind me. Yet once again I was confronted with the ageless "I am not your favorite" remark. 

When my three children were young and old enough to voice their thoughts I am positive that this was one of the first complaints that I heard. What's a mother to do? Well... I have a solution. (It's quite simple really.)  Simply confess that the other child is the favorite! (It works. Try it.)  Let's run through some possible scenarios so you get the technique down...

Child questions: 
How come (sister's name here) gets to stay up later than me?
Mom answers:    
Because she is my favorite. (Real answer is because she is older.)

Child questions: 
How come (brother's name here) gets to have three sleep over this month and I don't?
Mom answers:    
Because he is my favorite. 
(Real answer is he has been invited to 3 sleep over birthday parties.)

Get the picture? (It helps of course that you smile and answer with all the sarcasm you can muster.) Not convinced? Try it at least several times when the situation arises. I guarantee it will work. (And besides our dog is my favorite. But don't tell anyone.) 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Helicopter, Lawnmower, or Scooter Parent. Which one are you?

Recently, I was pondering helicopter parents.  If you have never heard the term helicopter parent it is a term that is used to describe a parent who constantly hovers around their child anticipating that they will be needed.  These types of parents interfere constantly.  Behaviors can range from complaining about a perceived injustice (possibly a poor grade that their child earned but that they feel the child should have not gotten); to becoming angry that their child is not a starter on a sports team; or writing reports and papers for your child.  Sometimes parents need to step in when something may be happening that is unfair, but I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about those individuals who engage in over parenting to the point that they are not protecting, but actually hurting their child’s development into adulthood. Over parenting to the extreme.

Usually this type of over parenting behavior does stop after the child leaves the nest. At the college level the term applied is Lawnmower Parent. The type of behavior seen at the college level is one where the parent clears any or all obstacles to make life easier for their child. Whether it is to wake them up in the morning to get to classes, get a job, pay bills… (Would you believe it?) Instead of college age students making decisions on their own the parents do it. (If your 18 year old can’t get themselves dressed and out the door in time that is their own darn fault!)

Does it stop after college? (Nope.)  Recently I watched a news report (with my mouth open and on the floor) that reported how hiring companies now have to deal with parents negotiating their adult child’s health insurance, as well as contract and salary negotiations.  (Really?)  I would have been embarrassed if my parents ever had called a future employer, and frankly if I was a future employer and mom and dad called to discuss and negotiate with me (on behalf of their adult child) I would retract my job offer immediately. This type of behavior demonstrates to me lack of life skills development. If a parent interferes at this level then they have been interfering forever.

One parent interviewed explained that they were doing only the things that they wished they had been told about when they were young.  I think they miss the point. If your child needs your life’s wisdom then offer it, but let your adult child make the decision and gain knowledge and experience from the act. Don’t do it for them! 

I think the main job a parent has is to prepare your child for adulthood and life. You must be there to provide love and guidance, give them opportunities to gain knowledge and learn, and to grow into competent happy adults. Constantly hovering about, making things easy, or doing it for them when they could do it themselves does the child a disservice. 

I would suggest that is you see yourself over parenting you try to slow down. My suggestion would be to become what I call a scooter parent. Take things slower and as they come. Enjoy your time more with your children doing simple things like playing. This makes life enjoyable, adds value to your relationships, and takes stress and pressure off of your shoulders and your child's.  It may also improve your relationship with your spouse. (An added benefit!) 

Personally I don't understand it. My experience has been that all children grown up at different developmental rates and sooner or later get to adulthood and become successful.

(Well, I guess I need to stop lecturing you… I need to do my 25 year old's laundry, rewrite my 16 year old's English paper, ask my mom to call my employer to negotiate my next round of pay raises, and make sure my husband is building our 14 year old's science project correctly….)